I often get asked how I do it all.
I work with clients on branding, illustration and mural commissions. I produce a line of stationery and lifestyle products, featuring my illustrations. I run online learning communities. I run a festival. I used to co-run a networking club for female founders. I regularly publish blog posts, I send weekly emails to my list and I try to post daily on Instagram. I’m raising a toddler and I’m trying to have a life again. Productivity is essential!
Last year I finally read the Shonda Rhimes book, Year of Yes, and she made a point about this “doing it all” question that I resonated with very much. The answer is: I don’t.
I do a lot but, it’s a constant negotiation. If something gets done, there’s something else that doesn’t. If one thing gets my undivided attention, there are several others that don’t.
I’m often overambitious when it comes to what I want to achieve and how much time I have to do it. The older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more realistic I become.
4 strategies to lead a more productive and joyful life
I’ve come to appreciate that the productivity I desire can be achieved by the following strategies:
- Choosing priorities
- Being organised
- Choosing joy
- Asking 3 simple questions
1. Choosing priorities
There’ve been times when I’ve struggled with prioritisation. When I’ve been stuck in the day-to-day which has distanced me from my goals. I spent most of my time reacting and responding to other people’s needs, at the expense of your own.
This made me truly appreciate the importance goal-setting and in all areas that are important to me – health, business, relationships, personal development, spirituality…
And having these goals written down and regularly reviewed has helped me to make better decisions. It’s helped me make connections and recognise that saying “yes” to this thing means that I have to say “no” to another. And if it’s a yes to something that doesn’t move me towards my goals, I’m forced to think about how this impacts that things that could?
Another approach is to trust my gut. Literally! A few years ago, I realised there’s a particular uncomfortable feeling I get, in my stomach, when I’m about to make a decision that doesn’t serve me. You’ve probably felt it too! Sometimes it’s loud and clear but, sometimes it’s very subtle. The more I tune in to myself, the more pronounced this mode of communication becomes.
However, sometimes it’s difficult to discern the difference between your intuition warning you about something and plain old fear keeping you in your comfort zone!
So how do you find a way to: make good decisions for yourself that will move you forward; remain flexible enough to not shut off opportunities; and be a balanced human being?
For me, part of the solution is that sexy old thing called planning.
2. Being organised
I’m constantly writing things down. Ideas, appointments, tasks … Anything that crosses my mind that requires some action, whether now, soon or in the unknown future, has to be noted down. I have a system for recording these various things which, I’m constantly reviewing in the hopes of getting it as streamlined as possible.
Technology is so convenient but crossing things off on paper is so satisfying so, I incorporate the two. To capture things on the spot, I use an app called TeuxDeux which syncs across my phone and computer. To plan my week, I write down tasks on paper, separating them into strategy, marketing, products + projects and admin.
This year, I invested a lot of time in planning for the year, for each quarter and each month. I’ll be sharing what this looks like, and how you can use this system too, in a post very soon. It’s helped me to clearly see how much capacity I have for things that are outside my priority activities. Previously, without this one-glance tool, I’d overcommit myself because I had no easy way of assessing my availability… and my energy.
Energy is the wildcard. I used to have systems that were built on estimating how many working hours I had in a day, how many working days in a month and so on. These never worked because they didn’t take into account my energy levels. We simply can’t be consistently productive, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Often nowadays, even more than that is expected. It’s just not sustainable.
3. Choosing joy
When it comes to energy management, it definitely helps when you love what I do. There are many aspects of my work that I want to stay up to do and I want to wake up to continue. I’ve been working on a shift towards doing more of the type of work that brings me joy and less of what doesn’t.
Marie Kondo’s KonMari process was a huge turning point for me. I went through it a few years ago and indeed, ended up making some major life decisions in the process. The end of a 7-year relationship and moving country which, has given me the grounding for so many things that are bringing so much joy and abundance to my life.
I use her philosophy to guide my decisions, in all areas of my life. When you see me “doing it all”, what you’re really seeing is me trying to balance the transition from doing a lot of things I feel I should be doing, to doing fewer things that I want to be doing.
Nevertheless, I’ll probably always be doing quite a few different things. Some call it being “multi-passionate” and I feel there are so many of us who identify with this nowadays. It’s a beautiful thing! To have diverse interests and to make the opportunities to pursue them. One big challenge is in finding the time, while still having sufficient time left over, to devote to self-care. The other big challenge is paying your bills while doing so, or better yet, to have some of these interests fund your living. THIS is the balance that I’m constantly working on.
4. Asking 3 simple questions
At the end of the day, I believe it comes down to a few simple, but not easy, questions. I believe thinking about these questions will help you to lead a more productive life, with productivity as defined by YOU, and thus, a more joyful one too.
1. What do you want less of in your life?
2. What do you want more of in your life?
3. What’s holding you back from clearing the necessary space?
Share your responses in the comments. I’d love to see how I can support you.